How to Groom Your Dog at Home

Let’s face it, professional grooming can be expensive.  It’s one of those things in life that are both a necessity and a luxury.  With the proper tools, education, and time…you can groom your dog at home and still maintain a cute clip.

Tools of the Trade
You will need the following items for a positive grooming experience.

  1.  An elevated surface.  Grooming on the ground is both back breaking and tricky.  Putting your dog on a picnic table or even the washer and dryer is more desirable.  You will need to purchase a grooming arm and grooming loop to hold your pet in one place.  For smaller breeds, there are miniature grooming tables that you can put on top of your kitchen table.  For the larger pets, attaching a canine hitch to a stud in your garage is recommended for a faster and safer grooming experience.
  2.  Dremel.  Every groomer I know resorts to using a Dremel that you can buy at your local hardware store.  They are safer and easier to use than any dog nail clipper.
  3.  Comb and a brush.  Buying professional grade brushes and combs is highly recommended because they are the most effective in removing dirt, debris, and those nasty tangles, known as mats.  
  4.  Pet shampoo customized to your dog’s skin conditions and needs.
  5.  Clippers.  Pet groomers debate the best clippers on the market constantly!  For the pet owner who will groom their pet occasionally, invest in a mid-range professional pet grooming clipper.  Stay away from a man’s grooming clipper because they are not strong enough to go through a pet’s hair and they will also give an undesirable length!
  6. Grooming Blades. There are various lengths to choose from and here is a guide to help…
    1. Only select blades that contain an “F” (for finishing) after a number.  Any blades that contain an “S” is known as a skip-tooth and should only be used by professionals as this type of blades increases the risk of cutting your pet’s skin.
    2. The higher the blade number, the shorter the hair cut will be.  For instance, #40 is a surgical blade that vets use to prep for surgery.  A #3F blade will leave your pet with a half inch of hair.
    3. A #10 blade is always used for sanitary trim, pads of the feet, and in between the eyes.  This is a must have blade.
    4. If you prefer your pet to have more than an inch of hair, then you will need a #10 blade and clipper combs.
  7.  Scissors, preferably with a blunt tip (please note, I have never used these scissors before because professionals use scissors that cost upwards of $300.00.  I would never recommend that investment to a pet owner.)

Before the Bath – There are a few steps to take before you put your pet in the bathtub.

  1.  Nails.  I believe this is essential to do prior to the bath in case you clip them too close and make your pet bleed.  As scary as this may seem, it is not something to fret about.  However, you do not want to have a clean pet and then quick a nail and have to re-wash your pet.  Doing this first will avoid a mess and extra work.
  2.  Shaving the pads of the feet and sanitary area. Using a number 10 blade you can quickly remove the fluffy hair between the pads to help make your pet walk easier. If needed, you can also shave around their private area with the same blade.
  3.  Brushing.  This is the biggest mistake many do-it-at-home pet owners make.  Failing to brush and comb your pet prior to the bath not only makes it more difficult to blow dry, but any tangles, also known as matting, can tighten up when the water hits it, thus making it harder to groom (think of dreadlocks).  Instead, first use a slicker brush to go over your entire pet.  Then use a greyhound comb to find any of the smaller tangles that got through the brushing.  If you cannot get the comb through it painlessly, then it would be best to scissor or shave out the mat.

The Bath
Another common mistake pet owners make is to bathe their pet in water that is too warm.  Remember, a dog’s body temperature is between 100 and 102 degrees.  What you consider comfortable, may be too hot for your pet.  Look at it this way, if you just ran a 5K…what water temperature would you consider comfortable?  Luke warm to cool is the obvious answer.  Please be sure to do the same for your dog whose body temperature is perpetually “running a 5k”.

If you purchase a professional-grade pet shampoo, read the label because you may be able to dilute it.  Professional groomers use high-quality products that are concentrated.  Also be sure to thoroughly rinse your pet.  Any shampoo that remains after the bath can cause itching and skin irritation.

Blow Drying or Air Drying
Ideally, you want your pet to be blow dried with a hair dryer.  This may take some time and there are dryers on the market for you to consider.  These can be costly so using your own dryer is fine.  Either way, make sure your pet is completely dry before you finish the grooming process.  Any damp spots will prevent your tools from going through the coat.  If you prefer to air dry, please note that you must finish the groom shortly after they dry.  Too many days cannot pass between the bath and the finishing groom.  In that time, your pet may get dirty again thus making it hard to groom.

The Final Step – The Groom!
Once your pet is completely dry, brush him again with both the brush and the comb.  Have all of your tools handy at this time.  Now you can start to clipper and scissor your pet to your desired length and clip.

How to Groom Your Dog at Home at

Use YouTube and the internet for additional resources and ‘how to’ when you get stuck.  A quick search can provide countless hours of grooming for your individual breed and your desired haircut.  When in doubt, ask your local groomer about the haircut you chose.  They will give you honest advice as if it is doable and if it will look good on your pet.  They can also give you tips and tricks to speed up the process and make it more safe.

Be Realistic
Be realistic with the time it will take to groom your pet.  Professional groomers can take up to 4 hours per dog.  Newbie groomers will take significantly longer.  Break it up in stages and only go as far as your pet will allow.  You want to make this a positive experience for you and your pet!

Also be realistic with the outcome.  Grooming is not easy and it is an artistic trade that can take two years of study to be able to produce some beautiful grooms.  With practice, it will get much easier.

Be Prepared for Accidents
A quicked nail should be the least of your worries!  We have heard of pet owners that accidentally cut off their pets tail or ear, slice a tongue or remove a mole.  If it happens to professionals, chances are, it can happen to you as well.  Move slowly and stay focused at all times.  Also have a pet medical kit handy with things such as peroxide, bandages, and septic powder.  My motto is to assume the best but prepare for the worst.

One Final Note
Grooming your pet at home can be a wonderful bonding experience!  But with anything, life has a funny way of getting in the way!  Mark your calendars to visit a professional groomer quarterly in the event that you cannot keep up your pet’s haircut.  This is a fallback plan to keep you on task but also make sure your pet’s needs are being met at the same time.

Good luck and happy scissoring!

Send us your pictures of your home haircuts!  We love when pet owners are actively involved in their dogs lives and grooming needs.  We can offer advice (if needed) and provide encouragement along the way!

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